For one California congregation, church services are looking more like concerts.
The Greater Purpose Community Church in Santa Cruz has for five years held services in a traditional church building, but recently decided to sell the property because, according to pastor Chris VanHall, “church is a community and a movement.”
“It’s not brick and mortar,” he explained in an interview with KNTV-TV. But apparently that lofty sentiment was pretty short-lived.
Since selling its building, the congregation has been meeting at a local food lounge, a community hub with plenty of beer options. When the group of believers first started using the space, VanHall asked the bartenders to keep the taps open because “there’s nothing in the Bible that says you can’t drink alcohol in a responsible manner.”
“Why not serve beer when they’re reading Bible verses?” bar owner Andrea Mollenauer said. “I thought it was genius.”
VanHall, who admitted he preaches a “progressive take on theology,” said congregants often sip on beer or wine while they listen to his sermons — a recent phenomenon that sparked his idea to blend a church facility with a money-making business, donating between 30 and 60 percent of the profits to charity.
This new approach to Sunday morning services seems shortsighted, given it’s not necessarily creating a family-friendly atmosphere and is downright toxic to visitors or regular attenders who have in the past or currently struggle with alcoholism or some other forms of substance abuse.
But VanHall is nevertheless marching forward, turning an old bookstore in downtown Santa Cruz into a brewery, where the church will eventually hold its services before opening up to the public.
The pastor made clear he doesn’t want to open the bar ahead of the services because they could mistakenly “dupe” people into attending a worship service. Construction on the new space is expected to take about one year.
“[Attendees] can have one or two [drinks]. As a matter of fact, if they have two, my sermon’s always better,” VanHall quipped.